Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zentangle or NeoPopRealism?

NeoPopRealism was created by Nadia Russ in 1989.
Zentangle was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas in (well, I haven't been able to find an exact date, but it looks like it was around 2004.  Their first newsletter came out in December 2005.  I've emailed them to ask.)  **Update: Here's the email reply I received.
Hi Wendy,

Thanks for asking. Our first public presentation of Zentangle was at a lettering arts conference (IAMPETH) in Providence, RI in July of 2004. I think the idea for Zentangle came to us sometime in the fall of 2003.


Rick (and Maria)

On Zentangle.com it says:
"The Zentangle® art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and is copyrighted. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com."

Please see Nadia Russ's website for more information.  Below are quotes and a photo from her website:  (Please note I believe this has been translated from Russian, so forgive the gramatical errors)
"In 1989, Nadia Russ (aka Nadejda Maloletneva) invented art form that helps to relax, it was like yoga for her brain. Very sensitive and emotional, Nadia Russ was trying to get rid of her stress and frustration when something in her life was going wrong. But wrong was, then in 1989 and a few more years, almost everything. Nadia Russ used paper and ink pen. She was drawing the lines, which were turning into different shapes, figures, faces. Sections that appeared, she was filling with the different repetitive patterns. Nadia never used eraser. If she made a mistake, it was disappearing because of the following patterns that balanced the whole composition.  When she draw these patterns, her brain was relaxing because this drawing is like meditation. It gave her double positive result - she had a unique original art piece plus she felt relaxed. Nadia Russ uses this art form till today, in her ink drawings and canvas pieces. In 2003, she created a word NeoPopRealism and manifested new style of visual arts. The artworks of Nadia Russ where she uses the line and repetitive patterns are now in different museums' permanent art collections worldwide. "

Please look at http://zentanglestolenconcept.blogspot.com's article (The Beginning...) for even more information.  (they have permission to reprint more of Nadia Russ's work, and her story.  (It states that Nadia was not aware of Zentangle until June 2011)

What do you think about this?
Is Zentangle original? 

I really don't know.  I think the business idea is original, putting it all together as teaching formula has been helpful to many.

The art of doodling...well, I think that's been around for much longer than either of these artists.  

I'm enjoying both.   And I truly hope that Rick and Maria knew nothing about Nadia Russ when they started this.  If Nadia didn't know about Zentangle until June 2011, why should we think that Rick and Maria knew about Nadia in 2003?  

It says on the Zentangle website, that I must state that my artwork that I've created using patterns since discovering their art form is "Zentangle Inspired Art". 

I created this drawing while in college...I think it was 1991 or 1992.  (I graduated in 1993)
What do you think this should be called?  NeoPopRealism?  Zentangle Inspired Art?
At the time of this creation, I had not heard of either.
It was simply a design.  One that I happen to love! (Note, it was all drawn exclusively with a dip ink pen.  Not, these fancy markers the artist are using now.)

I'm not saying either art form is bad, or wrong, or plagiarized.  I'm simply putting this out there for you to think about.

Have a great day!
and find an art form that can make you feel meditative!



  1. I think it should be trade-marked
    Neo Wendoodle

    As far as "Zentangle" goes in my humble opinion it's been around for centuries. "Zentangle" is an incredibly clever name and Branding strategy for marketing. Wish I had thought of it!

    1. Doodling, drawing, art.... have been around since the cavemen recorded their hunting booty and other trophies and possessions. All the modern claims are marketing strategies to originality, and it seems that zentangle has for some become the goose that lays the golden eggs. That's not a judgment, just a fact. The good thing about it is that lots of people (mostly older women) who would never have thought of making any art are drawn to it (and told anyone can do it - which is only true to a certain extent, but sells well). I'm so glad this topic has received an airing here.
      As far as 'original' patterns go, there are none. Everything has been done in some form or exists in nature in some form. What is interesting for me is the way some are deconstructed. Patterns made by artists of the past are certainly among those appearing as 'originals' now!!!

  2. I agree Judith that Zentangle is a neat name. But I do feel it's been around for a long time. And...I don't know if I think that if I make doodle drawings I should have to say they are Zentangle Inspired Art...when I was doodling long before I heard about Zentangle.
    I will give credit if I use some of their "original patterns", but normally, I just make up patterns as I go and then find out they have bee invented by someone else....eh, it's just a pattern.
    It's complicated.

    I like both of the names for my piece.
    Do you like my fishey. The assignment was to make a mirror image of something, with some liberties...I chose a fish. Then blow up part of it and create a design out of it..I chose the fin. the next project was to turn it into a Mandala....I plan to make a Gallery Page of old works, I'll be sure to put it in there. Those were two of my favorite pieces from 2-D Design class.
    (thanks Mr. Gately)

  3. This is really interesting to read but I also thought that this style was around for centuries. I don't really understand how they could have copyrighted it. I mean you can copyright a name but not a style of drawing, right?

    Your drawings however remind me of pointilizm. I don't know if I wrote that correctly. :) It's magnificent btw. :)

    Oh, to answer your question on my blog, the sun aligned by accident and I didn't realized it until the end when I scanned the two images together. :) They were not meant to match.

    1. Yes, they've copyrighted only the name and have even tried to make it a grammatical sin to use it in any other form e.g. zentanglig, zentangler or even the plural zentangles. Ridiculous and in the end they can't win on that one because even their crown (certificated) CZTs use the word as they please. It's only a definition, but it has caught on! Maybe the clumsiness of its predecessor 'Neopoprealism' is the reason.

  4. Wendy, I can't tell you how much I love that fish! It is fabulous! I am intrigued by this Zentangle stuff, and had thought about buying their kit but haven't. I agree with everyone that said this type of doodling/art form has been around for a long long time. When I doodle I draw paisley designs over and over...sort of the same. The Zentangle people were smart to copyright the name, but they didn't invent this art form, look at your fish...

  5. NatashaMay : I laughed out loud...really, when I read that the sun lined up accidentally, how cool is that?

    I think most of us are in agreement, you can copy write a name, but not an art style. Did Picasso copy write Cubism? (although I think Braque may have started that first...just barely. and I like his stuff better!) How about Warhol copy writing Pop Art? If he couldn't do it, I don't think it can be done. They can copy write the way they do it...on those little squares...certifying teachers...but once you get off that square, I think the doodle is yours. just my humble opinion.

    Thanks for dropping by, I'll be looking out for more of your paintings!

    P/S Yes, I have/ and do/ use a lot of pointalism in my work. Or larger points that I called Dabblism...look under my Gallery tab at the top and see the motion series, you'll understand what I'm talking about.
    hope you like.

  6. Mo, So glad you like the Fish. It was one of my favorites. It was one of the easiest assignments I had in that class...it just came to me and flowed from me. I loved doing it.
    Be sure to look under my new Gallery tab at the top, you'll see a Mandala that I did based on that drawing.

    I'm thinking, so far everyone is agreeing on the whole, creating this art form...um..I don't think so. They have a place on their website were they try to describe the difference between doodling and Zentangle...I figure if I'm not doing it on one for their fancy papers, and I haven't been taught by them, then I'm safe saying mine are just designs.

    Still enjoying them!

    If you ever want some pointers to get started doing more, there are some great You Tube instructionals, and if you ever have a question, or anything..you know where I am!

  7. This copy write issue has been on my mind. Interesting to find that Nadia Russ can mark a date when she incorporated a style with the same intent that 'Zentangle' uses to define it. My thought has been - is there anything really NEW? Patterns have been in art and architecture for centuries. How does one claim that? It is our culture to package and sell. It seems Rick & Maria have done a great job of that and of introducing folks to an experience that is very fulfilling. My stomach does knot up when folks try to stake claim and exclude others from sharing in a natural, creative state. My stomach also knots up when judgements are made of who is 'qualified' to teach when it is based on money and not skill.

  8. Catherine,
    I couldn't agree more on all points.
    Well said.

  9. Hello, to make everything about this subject matter for clear for this blog reader and to put everything on places, these links would help, explaining everything, even where marketingcame from:



  10. I only heard of Zentangle a few days ago, and of Nadia Russ' work yesterday - interestingly I didn't know of this controversy at the time, and didn't learn of it until I read your post here.

    I think there are definite similarities, but that these don't necessarily indicate plagiarism. After all, I was creating pen-and-ink only (no eraser) repetitive-pattern drawings to help me achieve calm (so...art for a meditative reason?) back in the 80s when I obviously had no access to either of the above. As I said on another website, if I looked hard enough I could probably find the same patterns I was using on Ms. Russ or Z.'s websites, but this obviously doesn't mean they plagiarised me as a teenager! ;-)

    I do take issue with the "Zentangle Inspired Art" thing. I can see WHY the trademark owners did this, as it gets the word out and brings more traffic to their website. However, I'm certainly not going to go back and grab my portfolio from my teenage years, find that repetitive, sectioned, penned piece I just mentioned, and write "Zentangle (R) Inspired Art" on it! It might look similar, might even contain some of the same patterning, but...it's mine. And so is the piece in front of me that I just did. Some of the "ZIA" stuff seems a little disingenuous to me.

    Incidentally, I also have a chronic condition - not Meniere's, though I was diagnosed with that years ago! I honestly don't think I have it, though, as I've had no symptoms at all for many years. Perhaps I just had a really, realllllllly long labyrinthitis problem... In any case, I do lots of papercrafts and so on to distract me and act as therapy when I'm in a lot of pain. It's incredibly helpful to me, so I was very pleased to hear that you find your art so healing. Best wishes for the future. x

  11. Hi,
    I don't know if this too late but I just happened upon this blog post. To show that using patterns in drawings has been around a very long time look up Albrecht Durer's Rhinoceros.

  12. I just happened upon "Zentangle" in a Blick Art Supply catalog and laughed my tail off - I have been using repetitive doodling as a calming act (I am ADD and focus is sometimes hard to find) since my father was dying through 1994 and 1995 - I have even sold some of the pen and inks the doodling turned into and my husband has been planning to tattoo one of my doodles for some time - they have a great marketing concept but anyone with too much time on their hands can tell you that only the marketing is new - not the act or the designs themselves. I should trademark ... oh.. creative rythmic eye winking... lol

    1. I agree wholeheartedly. I'd love to see some of your repetitive doodling. I do still find myself doing it, but haven't posted any in a LONG time. Life just got in the way. I do find myself bothered that someone might see it and think I'm Zentangling? ha. Really, it's meditative to me. I find it relaxing, and I've had a lot of fun with it. But to trademark a style.....that takes some nerve.

      Thank you for dropping by. (my husband also has ADD, but also OCD so the freedom of these would drive him crazy...but I wish he'd try it, it can really calm anxiety, don't you think?)

      sorry so late for the reply, my inbox got so full while I was recovering from surgery I still haven't gotten through it all. (I had a second Cochlear Implant surgery)

      thanks again.
      and keep up the Creative Rythmic Eye Winking!


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